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Thinking Big on Health Care

By Mary Agnes Carey, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

March 22, 2007 -- A new health care plan proposed by two Senate Republicans includes so many changes to the nation's health care system that one of its sponsors, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, says the bill will not pass this year.

But that won't stop Burr and his colleague, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, from trying. Their measure would overhaul just about every area of health care. Both senators say radical change is needed to make the health care system work better for all involved, especially for the approximately 47 million who do not have health care insurance.

"Not many people are super happy with the health care we have in this country," Coburn, a physician, said Wednesday in a briefing with reporters. "This addresses every major problem our health care system faces."

Under the bill, individuals would receive a tax credit of $2,000 and families would receive $5,000 to help pay for health insurance premiums.

Transparency—posting all prices for services rendered—would be required of all physicians, hospitals and other health care providers. Governors would have maximum flexibility under Medicaid.

Prevention would be a key focus, with money that now goes to several federal health care agencies' prevention programs instead being pooled into one fund and focused on fighting the five chronic diseases where prevention could save billions of dollars: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes, which cause two-thirds of American deaths.

The ads developed by the government would be much like the direct-to-consumer advertising the drug industry now uses.

Burr, who served a decade in the House before joining the Senate, described the proposal as "the first comprehensive reform of health care in my adult life." While Burr said he doubted it would become law, he said it would be a catalyst for change. "Comprehensive health care is a series of steps," he said.

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